MIND AND MYTH
Hugh M. Lewis
A common mythical myth of the American Consciousness is
that of the conflict between the frontier and civilization, between the
rugged, independently spirited pioneer and the Eastern gentleman of an
organized way of living. There are many permutations of this theme found in
Cowboy and Indian movies, propaganda war movies and in home grown American
legends of Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan and John Henry. This mythology
underlies a lot of science fiction and science fact, in our exploration of
outer space and our heroes of exploration, in the popularity of Star Trek and
Star Wars. John Wayne was an embodiment and paragon of this mythical
expression in the movies. Superman, Batman and other superhuman comic book
heroes are also cut from the same mythical cloth, as are Mike Hammer, Dick
Tracy, Matt Dillion and the all boy Cartwright family in the long running
television series Bonanza. Mark Twain's grown boyhood adventures of
Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer and A Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
The mythical meta theme of the American tradition of the
folk hero informs the attitudes, collective unconscious and world view of
American culture--or psycho geographical symbolisms, the way we look out onto
and relate with a larger world and a total universe, as well as the way we
understand ourselves and our own sense of society. It helps to frame our moral
sense of duty in the world and the way we deal with conflict.
In a sense, the hypothesis of evil as being rooted in an
authoritarian power structure which strives for world domination and the basic
conflict with the interests and independence of the individual as the source
of morality, is but another, rather academic variation of this same old theme.
A theory based on observation, experience, science and philosophy has captured
and reproduced a fundamental mythology which underlies its own creation. The
interesting aspect of this is that anthropologically the theory itself as well
as the empirical experience and information upon which it was based was cut
from the same mythical cloth. It is meta-thematic in being both of myth and
beyond and about myth. It is clearly an insider's point of view from the
margins of the culture. The dilemma is posed is whether some other possible
outsider's point of view might not be quite different or more objectively
valid an interpretation or if an outsider's point of view world be possible or
understandable from an insider's standpoint. Cultural anthropologists are
routinely challenged by this basic dilemma during their long sojourns in other
places where other traditions, mythologies, world views and civilizations
predominate. They are marginal outsider's seeking a common ground with the
insider's frame of reference.
There is really no escaping this dilemma unless we posit
somewhat arbitrarily and presumptuously a transcendent, objective, scientific
frame of reference based on 'pure observation' of behavioral phenomena which
claims in a 'hypothetico-deductive' and statistical fashion to stand outside
of the purview of myth, normative consciousness, world view, history, that
informs and composes the ground of the insider's point of view. In other
words, the objective outsider's objective frame of reference is held to be the
only scientifically legitimate one. The criticism against this 'unreflexive'
attitude is that the outsider must have some general frame of reference for
understanding human reality ad will actually superimpose his own implicit and
transparent, unquestioned world view, values, mythology and sense of history
upon the cultural realities of the people whom he 'studies'. True social
scientists do not even have a problem, because they do not study people, but
people as things, actions, events, numbers, words and as observational
statements. The scientist then simply substitutes his/her own sense of pathos,
ethos, nomos and mythos the vacant spaces between the lines of their recorded
data--a scientific transformation of the realities of the people whom they've
converted in to date bits, without a sense of critical absence, that something
important about their lives is missing in the script.
It is even claimed that science itself is bound within the
cultural tradition in which it grew from and became paradigmatically
formulated, and so is 'unconsciously' and implicitly rooted in the same myths,
metaphors, values, moralities from which it originated.
There is another way out of this dilemma, and that is to
presuppose that there exists a universal ground of being human in which all
mythology is rooted, and that the goal of the cross cultural researcher is the
discovery of this common ground between cultures. Then it is the case that
both the outsider's and the insider's frames of reference, mythologies, sense
of history and values, are rooted in the same basic fabric of human
consciousness and the goal of science is to elucidate this universality of
being. In the case of our meta-theme about the American character, we might
claim that this mythology is itself but one permutation of a larger, pan human
mythology, and that its objective comprehension is an excoriation of its inner
layers of consciousness. From a classical Oedipal standpoint we might say that
it is the rebellion and struggle of the free spirited son against the law of
the father. This is the basis of Freudian in interpretation of the human
psyche. Jungians posit the presence of a 'collective unconscious' and of
archetypal symbolisms. Chomskians posit a universal generative structure
underlying all human language and Levi-Straussians have done the same for myth
All of these kinds of interpretations come out of a
European philosophical/philological tradition of 'Culture History' and
Platonic Rational Idealism which posits the a-priori existence of a Geist, a
Spirit, a Noumena, a Cartesian Structure which underlies and predetermines
human consciousness. It is interesting that the superman ideologies, the
classical dichotomies between primitive and civilized, the Apollonian and
Dionysian, and notions of cultural relativism and determinism all come from
the same traditional source of Mind and Myth. It is also interesting that
Marxist theory and post structuralist critique of such theory comes out of and
is embedded in the same traditional fold.
To ardent empiricists embedded in a dialectically
contraposed position of inductivism, such thinking is considered
methodologically problematic from a standpoint of objective science. For
positivists, the idea of a universal structure underlying language, thought,
myth, and psychology is considered at best ultimately unamenable to scientific
methods of falsification and validation and at worst, it is itself composed of
the same ideological fabric of which it deals in its theory.
We are left back upon the same horns of mythological
dilemmas with which this essay began. In resolving this dilemma there are
several points worthy of close consideration. First, both themes of
rationalism versus empiricism, of science versus mythology, in their many
permutations, are but the contraposed extremes of a common dialectical
continuum which itself exists for the purposes of dialectical elaboration and
this dialectic has no final 'synthesis'. The only 'objective' standpoint then
consists of stepping outside of the dialectic itself and of taking a neutral
arbiter's position--both sides are right but neither side is completely so. To
do so is to adopt a 'meta-dialectical' orientation. This is the only
appropriate standpoint with which to objectively evaluate the terms of the
dialectics. Secondly, if the notion of a common universality of human
consciousness is correct, in which all our mythologies are embedded and from
which all their permutations emanate, then we must reevaluate and redefine the
role of science and its methodology in its study of human reality in such a
way that scientific validity rests on some other common ground than empiricist
or positivistic 'falsification'. This alternative framework demands a
different philosophy of science and a different theory in science. Thirdly,
the idea of a universal ground of human beingness is to be considered
substantially self demonstrating in a similar way that its many permutations
of mythology are to be considered naturally self organizing. They are 'self
evident' truths and realities in our own human nature. We cannot step outside
of its universal purview except by the adoption of a relatively
non-dialectical position, and yet their validation of universality does not
ultimately depend upon our stepping beyond its universality but in embracing
its meaning as fully as humanly possible.
Finally it is the thesis of this work that this sense of
universality if human 'beingness' is neither just linguistic, mythological,
psychological or symbolic, but is a phenomena of the entire culture historical
tradition of humankind which is rooted in the human capacity for 'sentience'
of, about and in the world. It informs our mythology as a kind of dialectical
conflict resolution through appositional analogical and metaphorical relations
which are essential meta-logical and form our fundamental frames of
reference/inference of the world by which we create meaning and come to
question the unknown. It is the basis of both science and mythology,
rationality and empirical experience. This is referred to as 'Mind' and Mind
has both collective, universal components informing the universal ground of
human beingness, and also unique individualistic components which relativizes
and renders the understanding of mind partial, imperfect and an inherent
dilemma of dialectic.
We can never escape this universal condition of mind, or
separate ourselves from its fabric of our existence in the world. We can only
come to know it better by embracing it and reflecting upon our own and others
experience of it.
Needless to say, this whole work, and the essays that
follow, are intended for the elucidation of this basic human reality and of
the implications which it has for our sense of mythology, morality, science,
history, evolution, nature and phenomenological and conceptual human reality
Evil exists in our world largely because we are actively
engaged in acting out the mythological meta themes which compose our being and
our world, of which evilness is but one possibility. The paradigm of evils is
but one of many paradigms of our mythological consciousness. Pacifism as a
meta paradigm is a paradigm of Mind, in the sense that Mind always comprehends
and contextualizes the paradigms of Myth in our reality. Evil is a product of
and model for myth. Peace is a condition of Mind--it is not just a possibility
of the human world, as evil is, but it is the beginning and end of all human
Mindness is a pan human state and sense of Mind which is
expressed both individually and collectively. The problem of Mindness is
dialectically contraposed to the problem of world view--each problematic
informs the other by its counterpoint. World view is always situated within
and bound by and relativized because of a culture historical context and
horizon of being--Mind situates the culture historical context and horizon of
being about a particular world view in reference to the universality of human
beingness. Mind is a pan human, universal phenomena. It is the expression of
pan humanness in the world and it is also fundamentally an irreducible
expression of the phenomena of the individual in the world.
Mind has long been an unfolding, self revealing process.
Mind has been continuously 'evolving' with the evolution of humankind. It has
been self organizing and its processual patterning has been unfolding as a
natural expression of anti-chaos in a chaotic universe. It has had an
ecological function and an evolutionary purpose which has made the critical
difference between the development of human culture and traditional
civilization and the biological evolution of humankind as a species. The
development of Mind has been a gradual process of evincing human
possibility--it has largely been non-progressive in its development, except in
the sense that human possibilities have become progressively expressed and its
patterning played out through mythological and ideological enactment.
Mindness is the expression of the universal sentience and
the toti-potency of humankind as a kind of partial omniscience, a toti-potency
which has overreached its practical and philosophical limits in its present
state of Earthboundness. Earthboundness is a paradigm of Mind, which carries
us to the edge of natural entropy and chaos. It is precisely upon the verge of
Earthboundness that we are able to reflect back and to comprehend the horizons
of Mindness, as before now it was theoretically without limit and therefore
remained incomprehensible and intractable to definition. In environmental
exhaustion humankind has biologically and culturally reached the limits of its
patterned possibilities which allows us to circumscribe what it means to
'become' human in the world.
Mindness was not a priori to the possibility of
humankind--it did not preexist waiting to be discovered and elaborated by
humankind. It sprung into being with the emergence of humankind--as its
expression of the latent possibilities of human sentience and human being. It
exists because we exist--we do not exist because it existed before us, except
perhaps as a pure possibility of the physical universe. Mind does not frame
our experience in the way that world view can be said to--Mind happens to us
and through us, experience the world with us and for us. It un-frames and
re-frames our frames of world view, as an expression of our possibilities of
being. Mind realizes s as we realize Mind, as an expression of our total
potentiality of being and becoming.
Mythology is the pan human expression of mind in the world.
It is not mind itself but the process of its actual patterning in the world.
Mythology is the ground of human consciousness, Mind is the collective
unconscious. Mythology is the way Mind mediates reality for us. It is the
expression of its adaptive function in nature in relation to environments.
Mythology is the only way that we can come to know Mind in
ourselves, and in one another. Mythology is composed of the collective
representations which cohere to create Mindness and Minding in our reality.
Mythology gives us a handle on our minds and on Mind as a universal.
Mythology is always expressed metaphorically, analogically,
relationally and dialectically. It frames our experiences, our phenomenology,
our 'senseness', our references, our inferences about our environments. It
contextualizes Mind for us in reality and contextualizes reality for us in
Mind. The function of mythology is the mediation between Mind and Reality--it
is characteristically human means of human sentience for resolving conflicts
between our experiences and our environments. Mythology is the way that Mind
comes to know the environment and the way our own evolution of possibility has
come to know its environments.
Mythology is a mosaic of permutations and possible
patternings of Human Beingness and Mindness in reality. Mythology is the
ground of meaning and being for humankind. Mythology is the paradigmatic
patterning of Mind. Ideologies and world views are but characteristic kinds of
mythologies, configured from the universal ground of Mythos. They are
mythologies 'in the making', in the process of being acted out or performed
within particular spatial temporal contexts or 'epochs' or culture historical
horizons of human experience. Ideology and world view represent the
realization, actualization and empowerment of mythology. Ideology and world
view are mythologies as 'self fulfilling prophecies' which makes the culture
historical patterning of Mind seem recurrent, repetitive and pre-determined.
In the enactments of power in the world, we cannot escape
our mythological imperative in the fulfillment of our possibilities of
becoming. Our mythologies, their many permutations and reinterpretations are
our destiny in the world. Not even science is beyond its purview of
pre-determination, as the technological teleology of science has come to
epitomize the expression of our power in the world.
The recurrent themes of our mythology are in a sense
meta-thematic' in the sense that they converge upon a single set of
dichotomous sets of 'meta-relations' held to govern other relations in the
world. The meta-themes of life versus death, sea versus mountain, male versus
female, parent versus child, civilized versus primitive, culture versus
nature, become reflected in philosophical and even scientific meta-themes of
mind versus body, natural versus supernatural, physical versus meta-physical,
time versus space, ends versus means, etc. The structure of mythology has been
well elucidated. Meta-themes govern sets of relations in the real world and
they can be reinterpreted into other kinds of meta-relations. The value of
such a structure is in its flexibility and in its contextuality--it always
surrounds and explains things in terms of other things.
Science would say that this makes mythology tautological
and unfalsifiable and this is correct. It is to be asked but never answered
whether such a convergence of meta-themes is reflective of archetypal dualisms
which are determined by the structure of the human mind, or whether they are
merely a thematic convergence of taxonomies and categories of experience which
is situated within a common existential set of predicaments faced by all
humans. The former hypothesis is indeed amenable to scientific method. The
latter alternative is at least amenable to verification of its context of
elucidation, the investigation of its existential experiences in which such
meta-themes find expression in the real world.
We cannot ultimately determine whether there are universal
dichotomies in the human mind or if so, then what exactly these might be. But
we can determine the recurrent kinds of existential relationships and common
experiences in which these meta-themes are situated and expressed in reference
to the world, and this is why the latter explanation is the more
The meta-themes of mythology lend themselves to poetic
expression--the roots of poetic consciousness are grounded in these
mythological meta-themes and mythology is dependent upon poetry for its effect
and relevance in human reality. It is in the understanding of the aesthetic
function of poetry as the origination and creation of human possibilities of
experience, that poetry can be said to be the voice of Mind.
The meta-thematic elements of mythology are a reflection of
the 'meta-logic' inherent to Mind. The 'meta-logic' of Mind comprehends
several alternative meanings, yet all cohere to make Mind 'meta-paradigmatic'
and account for the special, unique significance of human sentience.
The meta-logic of Mind consists of a 'meta-paradigm' of the
a) Metalogue or metalogical dialogue between self and other
constitutes dialectical question and answer conversation about a problematic
topic such that the 'structure of the conversation as a whole is also relevant
to the same subject. A metalogue comprehends more than one subject
simultaneously, in meta-thematic terms.
b) Meta-logic is defined by Webster's Dictionary as the
'metaphysics of logic' and as '1. Beyond the scope of logic; not determinable
by logic. 2. Relating to the metaphysics of logic.' Meta-logic is both about
logic and simultaneously beyond the purview of logic.
c) Meta-logos is about words and yet beyond words or the
metaphysics of words. Logic is rooted in language and all language is
metaphorical in meaning. The two value logic is a reflection of the
meta-thematic unity of mythology. 'Logos' or word, was for the Greek
philosophers the 'rational relations of things to one another or the general
sense of order or measure'. It '…designated the principle through which the
cosmos is generated, ordered, united and maintained, or even the ordered,
united, evolving cosmos itself…Logos is therefore the common principle
making possible 'understanding between man and the world and also between
men.' (Kleinkrecth, 1967:page 81)
d) Our awareness of our commons state of being is an
extension of our self awareness. Our self awareness and environmental
consciousness, our Mind, is structures by the apperceptive and simultaneous
awareness of our own being in the world and the being of others in the world.
Meta-logic carries the connotation of implication of 'apperception' defined as
'1. Perception; 2. Consciousness by the mind of its own consciousness; self
reflective perception applied to metaphysical ends--"Apperception is the
essential mental act in the great stages of mental generalization, perception,
conception and judgment--Baldwin." 3. The reinterpretation of new ideas
by past experience.'
e) Meta-logicalness also carries the connotation of
'reflexiveness' which is of and about and yet beyond simple self
reflection--it is the ability to make the strange seem familiar and
simultaneously make the familiar seem strange. It fuses difference in the
world such that we may find identity in difference. We find ourselves in
others and others in ourselves and our mythologies become but variations of
common meta-themes in other's mythologies and vice versa.
Sentience is found in our human capacity for establishing a
meta-loge with the universe. This is the source of our human possibilities for
becoming that are not constrained by nature or the physical reality of our
presence in the world. Our meta-loge is the expression of the meta-logic of
Mind that creates and comprehends paradox, antinomies, dilemmas, enigmas and
questions in reality.
It is important that we frame out problematics of Mind in
metalogically in terms of meta-logue--it is important that we find in our
meta-logues about Mind the basis for both our poetry and our science.
In the understanding of Mind as the possibilities of human
sentience, it is necessary to recognize the existential and phenomenological
isomorphism between 'being' and 'meaning' such that the two are but opposite
sides of the same coin. We must come to terms with the reflexive meaning of
meaning and 'beingness' of being in our metalogical meta-loges of Mind.
To 'define' comes from Latin 'definere' (to limit, from
"finis", a boundary) and is defined as 'to determine or describe the
limits of, the nature of, to set down the precise outlines of, to describe
exactly, to state or explain the meaning of meanings of a word, etc., to give
the distinctive properties or characteristic of a thing, to constitute the
definition of, or to settle or decide. (obs.) Synonyms include 'to bound,
demarcate. delimit, determine, limit and fix.
Several connotations are evident in this 'definition of
definition'. Definition is a response to the general question of 'what?' as in
'What is a thing?' or 'What is human reality?'. Answers to 'what' questions
tend to be precise, clear and finite. It is a kind of answer tending to
'determine' what the meaning of a word is, in sharp outline or contrast to
other words and meanings. It involves putting a clear, sharper outline of what
a vague thing is.
Determining a boundary, demarcating a finite limit or a
sharp outline by the definition of a thing or word constitutes an enactment of
meaning in itself. Thinking up our definitions to 'what is' questions involves
literally and figuratively the very meaning of that reality.
Furthermore, we come to define a thing in terms of other
things that are related or compared or contrasted with it within a broader
relational context of understanding. This is the metaphorical and basic
mythological aspect of our definition of meaning in the world.
Our 'definition of definition' calls up the metalogical
meta-logue about this problematic topic. Definition of meaning and the meaning
of definition as being a metalogical meta-logue brings us to a 'mise en abyme'
of meaning as constituting the essential 'paradoxicality' of Mind. Without our
paradigms we would not be able to distinguish the nothingness which lies
beyond it--'there can be no glimpse of the abyss, no vertigo of the underlying
nothingness.' (Miller) But our paradigms both opens up the chasm of
possibility, and simultaneously fills it up with meaning and covers it over by
giving it a name--grounding the groundless. Our paradigms then automatically
become 'trivial mechanisms' or 'artifices' f our production. 'It becomes
something merely made, confected, therefore all too human and rational…'
In speaking meta-logically of 'sense of order' or
'structure' or 'system' or 'paradigm' do we really mean something different
from 'sense' itself as 'sense/nonsense' or 'meaning/ameaning' or are we merely
'tying knots in our handkerchief' as Gregory Bateson puts it, 'such that these
terms will forever stand not as fences hiding the unknown from future
investigators, but rather as signposts which read: "UNEXPLORED BEYOND
THIS POINT". Our language can clarify as well as obfuscate.
Meaningful information consists of drawing a 'slash mark'
between subject and object, known and unknown, something and nothing:
Meaning may be regarded as an approximate synonym of
pattern, redundancy, information and 'restraint' within a paradigm of the
Any aggregate of events or objects (e.g. a sequence of
phonemes, a painting or a frog or a culture) shall be said to contain
'redundancy' or 'pattern' if the aggregate can be divided in any way by a
'slash mark' such that an observer perceiving only what is on one side of the
slash mark can 'guess' with better than random success, what is on the other
side of the slash mark. We may say that what is on one side of the slash
contains 'information' or has 'meaning' about what is on the other side…'(Bateson
1972: pages 130-2)
Our definitional 'What's' delimits a boundary, an outline
circumscribing a thing through the dichotomizing between what is and all else
it is not, by inscribing a 'slash mark' between the unknown and the known by
names and words which precipitate meaning and bounds a definite 'region of
information' implicit contraposed to what lies beyond or outside of the
The act of definition creates an order, a paradigm, of
meaning, a semantics constituted by the interrelationships of meanings of
words arranged in a particular syntactic sequence. Definition also excludes by
implicit negation all that meaning is not. What is bounded by the word order
is rendered explicit and concise and coherent, what is left unsaid and
undefined, lying beyond the definitional boundaries, is left implicit only,
unknown, unclear and chaotic. The question mark of the definitional question
'what' is a kind of slash mark emphasizing the definitional boundary between
reference/inference. Precipitated meaning in the region of information
constitutes referential knowledge gained definitionally--pointing to
information beyond the slash mark consists of inferential information gained
Denotation is the explicit definition of a word as opposed
to its implicit connotation. It is derived from the Latin 'denotare' or 'to
mark out' and is defined as 'a marking out or off, the direct explicit meaning
or reference of a word…an indication or sign.' Connotation is the implicit
meaning of a word left undefined but associated with the definition. It comes
from the Latin 'com' or 'together' and 'notare' or 'to mark, note' and is
defined as an 'idea suggested by or associated with a word, phrase, etc. in
addition to its explicit meaning…in logic, the sum of all the attributes
thought of as essential to the meaning of a term. To 'connote' is to suggest,
convey, to imply or involve.
Denotation and connotation stand in mutual relationship
with one another, the former being the literal, explicit, marked off boundary
and the latter being the figurative, implied relationships of the term to a
larger contextual framework of meaning. There can be no complete definition
without both strict demarcation and loose relationship.
We must understand the interdependency of semanticity and
the structure of syntax in language as the dialectically contraposed
components of sentience, understanding and information which is the
communication of understanding. Syntax constrains the possibilities of Mind by
the superimposition of a paradigm--without syntax Mind cannot be brought to
full realization. Semanticity fill the syntactic structure with
meaning--reinforcing it both referentially from within and inferentially from
without. Syntax consists of the functions or rules of relation, all the kinds
of slash marks of meaning. It is to be asked but remain unanswered whether
there is a 'deep' syntactic structure of the human mind which is universal but
precise in its determination of possibility. It is also to be wondered whether
such a deep syntactic structure is always evolving with the evolving and
possibilities and evincing patterning of human mind.
But such questions distinguish too greatly the difference
between semantics and syntax--we must see that all syntax is contextually
relational in its demonstration and all semanticity is syntactically
constrained in order to be rendered meaningful and relevant. To look for a
'deep paradigm' of universal structure of the mind is necessarily to become
'meta-paradigmatic' to discover what is before and beyond structure, as the
unfolding, patterning possibilities of Mind. All paradigms are environmentally
relational and constraining--all structures have a subject-object context
which is determined by patterning of Mind in which it is embedded--it is the
result of a dialectical interplay between human conventionality and natural
process. It is being continuously recreated, reconfigured into new
patterns--it simultaneously creates meaning and nonsense in order and chaos.
The definition of definition suggests the 'meaning of
meaning' as an important metalogical relationship. Meaning is defined as 'that
which exists in the mind, view or contemplation as a settled aim or purpose;
that which is meant or intended to be done; intent; purpose; aim; object or
that which is intended to be, or in fact is, conveyed, denoted, signified or
understood by acts or language; the sense, signification or import of words,
or as sense, understanding, knowledge.' What emerges from this definition of
meaning is the purposiveness of sense and the sense or significance of purpose
as expressed through words or acts or the 'enactment of definition'. The
centrality of the meaning of 'purpose' or the 'sense of purpose' or the
purpose of meaning or sense, which is simultaneously connoted and denoted in
definition of 'something from nothing' or 'sense from nonsense' conveys the
idea of the 'meaning of meaning' as being the meaningful purpose of life in
human reality as itself the meaning of purpose. The essential purpose of being
is meaning, and the purpose of meaning is being. Purpose in this sense,
becomes defined as 'aim, intention, design, resolution, determination or as an
'instance, example' or paradigm. Paradigm creates purpose and purpose creates
This is the ultimate paradoxicality of human being and
Mind, the inescapable tautology of the meaning of human being and the being of
human meaning. When we refer to the meaning of meaning in human reality, we
are referring to the paradoxical mise en abyme that meaning is both the means
and end of living, the sense and purpose of being.
Indeed, meaning inheres intrinsically and inextricably in
the fact and enactment of human existence--meaning is being--and the 'quest'
for meaning constitutes the 'purpose' of human existence. The quest for
happiness, for fulfillment, for wealth, for prestige, for truth, for eternity,
or immortality or for El Dorado or the fountain of youth or for paradise or
freedom or just a little bit of social security and a modicum of simple
material amenities, is what it means to be human and the purpose of existence
is the quest for ever greater meaning of human reality. Meaning is like a
golden thread coursing through all the weave of existence composing the fabric
of many bits and pieces of the grand tapestry of reality--meaning underlies
all of the greatest and deepest and most important reasons and purposes and
truths of life.
It follows that meaning, being and purpose become defined
through their creation, pursuit and fulfillment in terms which are the
enactment of paradigm and pattern in the world and are expression of forms of
human empowerment. Mythology and its poetic voice is the human vehicle for
The meaning of meaning and the definition of definition
emphasize clearly the fundamental paradoxicality and the mise en abyme of the
metalogic of Mind. It illustrates the essential, irreducible 'reflexiveness'
of human sentience. Ultimately the structures of human reality and the
experience of interrelatedness in the world are expressed through the
'reflexivity of meaning and being'. Reflexiveness is the principle structure
of human meaning and being in the world.
Reflexive is defined as 'reflex, reflective, or as
expressing an action turned back upon the subject; designating a verb whose
subject and direct object are identical…'. Akin to reflexiveness is
'reflectiveness or the state of being reflective, taking cognizance of the
operations of the mind, capable of exercising thought or judgment…exercising
thought, meditative'. Reflection expresses among other things, 'the fixing of
the mind on some subject; serious thought; contemplation or the result of such
thought; an idea or conclusion, especially if expressed in words.' (Webster's
Reflexiveness emphasized grammatical connotations,
connotations of reflexiveness and reflection and the apperception of 'the
conscious of mind of its own consciousness' or 'self reflective perception
applied to metaphysical ends'. Inescapably human reality is universal,
relative, symbolic and metaphorical and also has an inherently reflexive
structure through symbols and metaphors. Human reality always evinces a
quality of 'turning back upon itself' and of 'being self aware or conscious of
itself'. It is a condition of self consciousness as this becomes reflected in
contextual relation. Reflexiveness then is the ground of being in human
reality--the ultimate meaning of this reality. But it is an ever receding
ground in its inherent recursiveness and 'reduplicative' character. It is the
well spring of infinite imagination and the abyss of infinite regress. It is
the mise en abyme and the bottomless bottom of human potentiality and the
possibility of Mind.
The reduplicative character of reflexiveness implies both a
'regenerative' nature of meaning, a processual patterning expressed through
metaphorical symbolism and a fundamentally of paradox in that this
regenerative quality contains both the potential for infinite regress and for
infinite development of meaning. Reflexiveness defines the structure of
meaning in reality and of human interrelatedness in the world.
Though reflexivity takes on different shades of meaning in
various disciplines and contexts, a core is detectable. Reflexive as we use
it, describes the capacity of any system of signification to turn back upon
itself, to make itself its own object by referring to itself; subject and
object fuse. A long tradition exists in which thought has been distinguished
from unconsidered experience, where life is not merely lived naively without
being pondered but regarded with detachment, creating an awareness that
finally separates the one who lives from his history, society, from other
people. Within the self, detachment occurs between self and experience, self
and other, witness and actor, hero and hero's story. We become at once both
subject and object. Reflexive knowledge then contains not only messages, but
also information as to how it came into being, the process by which it was
obtained. It demonstrates the human capacity to generate second order symbols
or meta-levels--significations about signification. The withdrawal from the
world, a bending back toward thought process itself, is necessary for what we
consider a fully reflexive mode of thought. To paraphrase Babock (1980), in
order to know itself, to constitute itself, as an object for itself, the self
must be absent from itself: it must be a sign. Once this operation of
consciousness has been made, consciousness itself is altered; a person or
society thinks about itself differently merely by seeing itself in this light.
(Ruby, A Crack in the Mirror, 1982, page 3)
The metalogical reflexiveness of the definition of
definition and the meaning of meaning constitutes the essential ground of
being in human reality--it is the mythological mirror of Mind and situated in
the world. It constitutes our knowing and our knowledge about ourselves and
our world. Knowing implies apperception of our own consciousness, of our own
awakened knowledge, as a state of self awareness. To know comes from the
Sanskrit root jna', to know, and is defined as 'to perceive with certainty; to
understand clearly; to be sure of or well informed about, or to recognize by
recollection, remembrance, representation or description, or to distinguish.'
Knowing implies information, shrewdness, worldly wiseness. Knowledge is
defined as 'clear and certain perception…the act, fact or state of knowing,
understanding, learning, all that has been grasped by the mind…cognizance or
recognition, information, the body of facts accumulated by mankind;
acquaintance with facts; ranges of awareness or understanding.'
From vagueness to clear 'knowing' knowledge denotes the
definition of meaning in a certain paradigmatic pattern, a 'knowable' sense of
purpose. It implies 'information'. Information comes from the Latin meaning
'an outline, sketch' or 'to give form to, to represent, to inform'. All
information is definitely patterned with a fixed order of purpose. All
formation is paradigmatic. The meaning of information implies definite
knowledge which becomes communicated between self and other, 'objectified' by
acknowledgment, recognized by others by being presented in a recognizable,
knowable form. It also implies meaning which is contained within a certain
definitional boundary--subsumed within a region of Mindscape.
Reflexive information fixes and paradigmatizes our own
identity, meaning and being in the world. Knowing ourselves is a way of
determining ourselves in the world, and determining ourselves becomes a manner
of knowing ourselves.
Furthermore, information also implies communication or
significant interrelationship between people, as that which is communicated.
It makes sense to refer to the reflexive 'knowledge of
information' and the 'information of knowledge' as the basis of human
communication and transmission. We might also refer to the information of
communication and the communication of information as the principle
paradigmatic of 'knowing' our world.
The essence and raison d'être of communication is the
creation of redundancy, meaning, pattern, predictability, information and /or
the reduction of the random by 'restraint'.
It is I believe, of primary importance to have a conceptual
system which will force us to see the 'message' (e.g. the art object) as both
itself internally patterned and itself a part of a larger patterned
universe--the culture or some part of it.
…Still more important, we like to test and verify the
correctness of our view of our relationship to others. (Gregory Bateson, Steps
to an Ecology of Mind, 1972, page 132)
Defining or meanings involves us in a process of 'figure
ground' relationship between 'internal, intensive, explicit, defined meanings'
and the 'external, extensive, implicit, connotative, figurative, metaphorical
meanings of the larger contextual framework'. The figure ground relationship
between subject/object and the background 'connoted by the outline of meaning'
is the basis of metaphorical meaning, boundary identification, the metalogical
mise en abyme of the paradoxicalness of meaning, and also provides the sense
of 'parallax of meaning' which orients, configures and provides perspective in
The figure ground relationship constitutes the structure of
antinomal meaning and being in human reality.
We intentionally, purposefully 'configure' our reality. It
must be recognized that how we define the outline of this interrelationship,
how we draw the slash mark and outline of meaning and being, is first and
foremost dependent upon an arbitrary act of will. 'Identification with a
difference' is configured by what we decide we want to make it mean, and by
all that becomes unintentionally implied by our definition. Our definition
circumscribes the meaning we choose, and chooses the context which then
circumscribes our meaning.
The only constraints to our enactment of definition are
those superimposed by7 the need for communication of limited information--the
need for maximization of 'relatedness' in the world. These constraints are the
pre-existing paradigms of convention, culture and history. Mind works through
us independently as the expression of its possibility and also works outside
of us as the paradigmatic patterning of its possibility.
'Figure' comes from the Latin 'to form or shape' and means
the form, shape or outline of something, a pattern, design, a picture, a
likeness, representation, or a 'being of the imagination, a conception of the
fancy; a phantasm; an image.' To configure is to 'form; to dispose in a
certain form, figure, shape.' We configure our realities by making our
paradigms. We configure the form, appearance, shape outline, in relation to a
'ground' which is the bottom, topic, area of reference, valid reason, motive,
cause, logical basis of conclusion, that on which anything may stand, rest,
foundation, basis or the 'figure of which a figure is represented' in relation
to a context of constraining relations in the world.
Reflexive meaning is the ground of being in human reality.
It is the essence of what we come to know of ourselves and our world. It is
also an extremely relative affair--differently interpreted by different people
in different contexts. There is no fixed measure or elemental atom of meaning,
there is no fixed context or universal frame of reference for meaning--no life
force, or pleasure principle or eros which permutates into the many variations
of a common theme. Meaning expresses a theme of relativistic understanding of
human reality, a universal theme of human comprehension of which there are
infinite permutations. In its reflexive regenerativity meaning becomes also
dynamic and changing.
Human beings are actively or passively engaged in making
their own meaning systems in a continuous process of relating significantly
with their contexts, of communicating themselves with the world. Human beings
are engaged in continually refashioning their meaning systems to preserve and
maintain a sense of existential coherence and continuity of self identity in
the world. We seek paradigmatic unity of meaning and being, of Mind in the
Human beings who fail in this process of meaning creation
inexorably suffer meaning in loss--psychological anomie--and loss of self
identity--alienation--in the world. They become unreflexive and
In its reduplicativeness, reflexive meaning is also of an
irreducible, universal and paradoxical nature. It is inherently paradoxical
and therefore always problematic in the dual possibility of possible creation
and infinite regression--the dialectically anti-thetical possibilities of
progress and regress, construction and destruction, integration and
disintegration inherent in meaning.
The paradoxicalness inherent in meaning arises from the
forever momentary 'indeterminacy' or possibility--the relative uncertainty of
meaningful change. This is a source of chronic anxiety about existence, an
expectant anticipation of chance, the fear of the unknown and unknowable, from
which we all seek escape through paradigms but from which there is ultimately
no escape. This pervasive, pan human condition gives rise to a quality of
'liminality' of simultaneously being nothing and something, and of
'antinomality' the background condition of our existence, the texture of our
knowledge, the irreducible relativity and uncertainty of our meaning and
being, an unresolvable sort of internal psychic conflict 'generated by a
proposition that suggests its contradictory (or the domain of its contraries)
as strongly as its own affirmation and the moment of its affirmation.'
There are more than one level of the super organic
functioning of the re-synthesism of Mind. This is not the same imputation of
super organic reality to cultural phenomena or to social life per se, as it is
conventionally interpreted in anthropology, but that the mind and by extension
the intersubjectivity of Mind, has a subjective life of its own separate from,
but not completely independent from experiential human reality. This
subjective life of the mind constitutes an objective reality of it own apart
from the phenomenological experience or understanding of human reality. This
super organic 'life of the mind' or 'experiential reality of the mind' or
'mentality' is irreducible and unamenable to analysis.
Symbolization as the dialectical process of symbolism has
different 'modes of representation' which come to organize experience in a
seemingly 'categorical' or configurational, paradigmatic way. These modes of
representation are based upon different sign systems organized around certain
implicit and explicit ideational rules of relation. Alphabets and syllabaries
are two such modes of representation, as are ink drawing and clay modeling.
Modes of representation organize and lead to the classification of varieties
of experience--differentiating in a systematic way many relationships. Modes
of representation subsume one another and lead to the hierarchicalization or
relations and the taxonomic classification of things.
Different 'modes of representation' allow experience to be
'experienced' in different ways--to become expressed through different symbol
systems and to become reconfigured into different paradigms of being.
Different modes of representation lead to different 'casts of Mind'--the
identity of experience is molded and pre-formed in characteristic ways which
have distinct cognitive, emotive and conatie consequences.
Mind comes from the Anglo-Saxon 'gemynd' meaning 'memory'.
Basic to the notion of mind has been the importance of past experience as the
empirical, subjective, phenomenological ground of mental construction and the
functioning of Mind as the integration of 'stored experience' which enables
mediation of present environments. Matter comes from the Latin 'materia'--the
'stuff of which anything is composed'. This is an interesting contrast, as
'dreams are the stuff' and all mind is composed of the same essential human
stuff--subjective experience--whether it is rationally or empirically derived
Mind and matter is a fundamental dialectic mediated by
human experience. Mind can be expressed as the 'temporalization' of experience
and matter can be thought of as the 'spatialization' of experience.
The structure of experience determines that there should
always be a degree of symbolic isomorphism between Mind and Matter--the
structure of each is reflected by and represented with the structure of the
other. We experience mind and matter, and mind and matter are experienced by
The synthetic unity of human experience provides us with a
sense of reality which defines our beingness through the articulation of
symbolisms within our environments. It is this identity of experience which
provides s with unity of Mind--the common human sentience of thought, feeling
and pattern which is referred to as the 'psychic unity of humankind'. The
synthetic, symbolic structure of Mind, expressed as the identity of experience
is the basis of the principle of the psychic unity of humankind.
We purposefully seek to maintain within our everyday
streams of experience a sense of identity and the unity of Mind. The
importance of this 'need' of human sentience,, both perceptive, conative,
emotive, cognitive and normative, must not be underestimated as it becomes the
organizing principle of culture historical development.
In the dialectic of identity, between beingness and
non-being, selfness and otherness, there occurs a cybernetic interrelationship
between Mind as the reflexive identity of self beingness and Culture as the
other identity of non-being. The cybernetic relationship between Mind and
Culture in the dialectical process of identification is more than
analogical--the symbology of Mind being analogous to the symbolisms of
Culture. The cybernetics of Mind and Culture are homological--they have
structural affinity and the same ontology of development and are derived from
the same origin. Furthermore, Mind and Culture constitute in their patterning
of interrelations a single, cybernetically integrated system.
It is the cybernetic homology of Mind and Culture which
allow us to speak symbolically of a Culture in terms of an individual
personality or identity of being, and to refer to individual identity in
reference to a particular individual's contextuality within a particular
culture historical framework.
That this interrelationship constitutes a single integrated
cybernetic system, one which is dialectical and symbolic, is important. There
are many feedback mechanisms between culture and self which need to be
comprehended. This dialectical system constitutes a developmental series of
cyclical alterations which revolve around a single directional axis of
development--of change and transformation of both individual and culture. This
central axis is the 'center' of culture and character.
There is a cybernetic system of relations between the
identity of Mind, the communication function of language, and the phenomena of
Culture as patterned context. In a large part Culture is the physical
expression and projection of the defense mechanisms which protect and
reinforce the identity of Mind--culture constitutes the symbolic 'archosis'
and collusion of tradition which provides a contextual framework by which
identity of Mind becomes referenced and is rendered significant.
Language is the mediator of this set of relations--it is
the medium of expression and articulation of its symbolism. It makes no sense
to analytically separate Mind, Language and Culture in the on going stream of
human conscious experience, but to speak of a single integrity of its
experience as 'Mind/Language/Culture'. It is better to see these three sets of
phenomena as but differential facets of the same basic operational system of
human relationship in the world. It is possible to see Mind in terms of
Language and Culture, and Language in terms of Mind and Culture, and Culture
in terms of Language and Mind--there are symbolic resonances of each in terms
of the other.
Mind is the super organic collective consciousness of
humankind which is seated in the consciousness of the individual--individual's
are the vehicles of Mind. Culture's are the contexts of the collective
unconscious of people, and Culture-History is the context of the collective
unconscious of humankind. Individual's are the separate 'ideas' of Mind--the
holothetic symbolic expression and embodiment of Mind. Mind experiences
reality through the experiences of people. The unique identity of each
individual occurs as the one possible 'ideational instance' of Mind.
Mind as an 'idea' expressed individually is the product of
the symbolic dialectic between beingness and non-being. As 'idea' it
ultimately informs the individual's 'Reason for Being' in the world.
Existential engagement of 'idea' as a deliberate decision requires the
transcendence of the dialectic by the reaffirmation of 'self identity' in the
world vis-à-vis the other identity as possible 'non-being'.
World view as the integration of 'mind/language/culture'
informing the principle of presence and the centeredness of being, is in a
sense the dialectical antithesis of Mind. World view occurs as a consequence
of the functional integration of cybernetic systems of 'mind/language/culture'
in terms of symbolic conglomerations. World view becomes the professional's
perspective--Mind remains the amateur's naiveté' about the world.
World view is always an 'intensive' orientation, while Mind
is always an 'extensive' orientation. World view becomes the symbolic cultural
identity of 'otherness'--the embodiment of the 'idea' of non-beingness. World
view does not transcend the dialectic of identity, but unfolds within the
mythological parameters and paradigmatic patterning of its counterpoint. The
individual does not 'embrace' world view--world view embraces the individual
and entails lack of or control over choice. Mind is 'epi-genetic', the germ
plasm of Mind. World view is culture historically relative--a particular
symbolic Geist predominating (as Centeredness of Being) within a particular
context of place and period--Mind is transcendental and pan human in process,
beyond the spatio-temporal boundaries and culture historical horizons of world
So far, science has been mostly a phenomena of world view
and not of Mind. Only when it embraces Mind fully will it transcend its own
limitations of paradigm and power.
The super organic integrity of Mind is always and only
expressible in terms of dialectical identity of the individual. This is the
holothetic principle--the integrity and 'structure' of the whole is expressed
in terms of holism of its individual parts, in terms of dialectical textuality
of individual identity. Mind becomes the 'thetic' starting point for the
identity of the self, and the identity of the self becomes the synthesis of
the identity of Mind.
It follows that any method based upon the holothetic
principle attempts to understand Mind as this is manifest in terms of any
given individual's basic identity in life, and attempts to infer from such
studies an autobiography or life history the nature of Mind as a super organic
The dialectic of individual identity is a counterpoint
between self and other identity in the world. It is the self sidedness of this
dialectic which confers the holothetic structure of Mind. The other sidedness
situates and orients the self within a culture historical context, providing
the relational significances of the individual sense of being, but it is the
unique self identity which the individual brings into the formulation of mind
which confers upon it a vitality and a real world relevance, without which
individuality as an 'idea of mind' would remain unexpressible or incoherent.
The super organism of Mind, then, is not expressed in terms of an individual
sacrificing him/herself for the sake of a larger corporate social
identity--though this may be one facet of the 'self' expression of Mind.
Rather, it becomes expressed in terms of how and why an individual
incorporates Mind as Self, as the organizing Reason for Being in life. It is
in this self centeredness of the holothetic principle that the source of the
momentousness tends toward a super critical unpredictability which may
decisively redirect culture historical momentum.
It is the holothetic principle which confers a sense of
wholeness to the self and to Mind as an 'idea' of human consciousness. The
integrity of the self derives from the integrity of the Mind, and the
integrity of the Mind is centered in the relative integrity of the self. There
is thus a certain reflexiveness of identity between sense of Self and Mind
which is the essence of the holothetic principle.
This is the part of the grand paradox of human
existence--the sense of self and sense of Mind are separate and yet the
same--both are an 'idea'. This paradox becomes even more problematic when this
reflexiveness of identity is sees as expressed in terms of a dialectic between
self and other--sense of self becomes defined in terms of the other-identity
and vice versa, an individual identity is the self centered/other decentering
dialectic of Mind. Other-identity intermediates the holothetic principle as
the grand 'anti-thesis' of Mind. World view is situated in the other-identity
Individual dual identity forms a dialectic of consciousness
and context, character and culture, of contraposed values, interests,
significances and choices which are always expressed and defined in terms of
one another. This dialectical of identity constitutes the mythological fabric
of culture historical consciousness written in the meta-language of Mind. The
concepts of individual identity arises as the synthesis of this dialectic of
Mind and Myth--it is the culture historically symbolic idea of Mind.
The individual, as the basic culture bearing unit of
culture history, becomes as well the basic 'genetic unit' of Mind--i.e. an
'idea' as the basic constituent unit of Mind. It is the self side of the
dialectic which serves to situate Mind as an idea with a corporeal materiality
and with a uniqueness of purpose and integrity of being. It is the other-side
of the dialectic which situates Mind within a culture historical provenience
and which loads its 'ideas' with relative and universal symbolic significance.
The universal Mind of humankind is but the collective unity
of all individual human minds--the individual human mind becomes an 'idea' of
the collective Mind. As individuals pass away, they 'vanish' as ideas of Mind,
but Mind as a corporate collectivity of ideas, continues through beingness of
others. The meta-language of Mind is the sharing and communication of
consciousness between individual ideas--the universality of this meta-language
is rooted in the potential universality of this sharing of Mind.
Self-identity and other-identity are but two sides of a
single coin of consciousness--the coin of individuality as the idea of Mind,
and the exchange of such equivalency of coinage is the universal economy of
Mind. Individuals, as basic ideas of Mind are the principle irreducible
mediums of exchange of Mind.
What is self becomes expressed in terms of 'otherness' and
vice versa, so it makes little net difference in the dialectic which side one
begins or ends with. Whichever side is manifest, the other shadow side is
always implicit and predictable.
Though individual 'ideas' may come and go, Mind as a
collective entity continues as a corporate 'identity'--founded as it is in the
possibility of patterning and necessity of communication--culture historical
transmission of Mind. Mind as a 'collectivity' has than a 'super organic'
structure and a meta-linguistic function above and beyond that of its
constituent individual 'ideas'--it comes to have its own reasons for being
beyond those 'reasons' if its basic ideas.
Mindness is always expressed symbolically and
metaphorically as 'something which stands for something else'. It is the
metaphorical structure of human meaning which accounts for its inherent
paradoxicalness and 'antinomality'--Mind must always be expressed as
'referring to something else'. Knowing Mind is always indirect. World view
substitutes Mindness for Mind--the metaphorical structure of meaning becomes
denied as 'something which stands for itself'. Metaphor both opens human
meaning to possibility and simultaneously prevents the realization of
possibility--world view closes off possibility through its realization.
Mindness always functions metaphorically in the symbolic mediation of human
The 'ecology' of Mind is the measure of the
inter-relatedness of reality--everything is related to everything else,
however indirectly. This ecology is reflected in the Ecology of Mindness as
the measure of relatedness of human awareness and understanding to the
empirical ground of human reality--to the environments of Mind. It is
expressed as an intrinsic ecological consciousness of the environmental
physicality of Mind. The ecology of mind came into being gradually as a
functional 'system' of interrelations which have some form of adaptive
The ecology of mind is total in an all pervasive sense--it
always surrounds, contextualizes and relativizes meaning in the naturally
chaotic and entropic environment.
MINDSPACE AND MINDSCAPE
Mind occupies its own kind of space. This space is
metaphysical mostly, but it does have extension and parallels in physical
reality. The spatial metaphor is a necessary way of imaging and looking at
Mind, because it provides a sense of its synchronicity and simultaneously of
its ideas and their meta relations that would otherwise be difficult to 'see'
in a glance. Mindspace is infinitely internal and internally infinite in its
dimensionalities, just as physical space is infinitely extensive. Within its
infinitude of intenseness there is vast room for infinite possibilities of
patterning. We cannot easily transverse mindspace, just as we cannot easily
transverse even a minuscule region of physical space, because we are bound by
our biological being within such narrow time frames of existence. As old as we
become we always die too young and move to slow to cross even a section of its
area, or to fulfill even a portion of its potentialities. And yet even from
our limited vantage point, if we study its breadths we can formulate pretty
good ideas of the kinds of things which compose it and the relations between
Mindspace is 'holistic' in the sense that its
multi-dimensionalities cross cut every tradition bound academic boundary
discipline, field of study and domain of imagination that there is available
today and comprehend and unit the mountains of information into networks of
understanding that we have yet been blind to. The depths of mindspace easily
encapsulates the whole compendium and corpus of human knowledge and wisdom.
Mind also has a kind of topography, a kind of terrain, a
kind of geography that is distinctive. We speak of regions of mind, of no
man's land, of mountains and of paths and forests between the mountains, of
horizons, benchmarks, stratigraphy, foundations. We see that in a particular
region of mind, in a particular paradigm of its patterning, things and ideas
are set in relatively fixed and stable relations to one another, while other
things and ideas are in fluid and dynamic relations, flowing around and
between the fixed coordinates. We can speak of meridians and of relative
distances of relations between things, and see that some forests are more
thickly wooded that others, some mountains higher and some pathways more
Spatial metaphors are important in our understanding of
Mind because it provides us with a means of translating our temporal
experience of Mind into a static sense of space, in which temporal frames of
time become spatial measures of distance. Space and time in Mindness are not
strictly separate--the experience of one becomes the experience of the other
in different terms. Our normal experience of Mind is as phenomenological
streams of consciousness which flow in time and across space. Even our
perceptions of time and space can change and become altered in interchangeable
ways, in a kind of synaesthesia of the fabric of Mind. Space and time
metaphors are also the first and last 'scientific' anchors that keep Mindspace
on the physical ground of reality.
Mind in time, as dynamic pattern and change, is
fundamentally different than Mind in space as fixed structure and synchronic
happening and movement and each has very different kinds of consequences in
our paradigms and understanding of human reality. Temporal metaphors of Mind
allow us to talk about some things such as change, development and process,
which spatial metaphors of Mind do not allow--on the other hand spatial
metaphors allow us to see and examine 'structure', periodicity and fixed
pattern and context in ways temporal metaphors disallow.
Mind moves through a space time continuum. Mind always
moves and movement is the key characteristic of its understanding. Its
movement through space and time over the terrain of its mindscapes, animates
Mind as a force, an event, a continuing happening of consciousness. Its
movement, however constrained or however entropic never ceases. It may slow or
speed up but it never stops.
MENTAL MAPS AND MAZEWAYS
Given the efficacy of the movement of Mind, of its space
time metaphors and of its Mindscapes and Mindspace, we must see that
mythological paradigms of Mind create mental mazeways of walls, corridors,
corners, doorways, windows, mirrors and thresholds which we must learn to
navigate successfully within and which lead in many different directions but
In our daily streams of consciousness, we learn and develop
mental maps of where, when and how to navigate our mazeways in a manner that
becomes meaningful to ourselves. These mental maps of our Mindspace are simple
and small at first, but we gradually add onto them and they grow in complexity
and sophistication along the way. These maps record symbolic markers which
indicate a basic change in direction, a shift in mode, a slowing or speeding
up of movement. They are flow charts which indicate the consequences of
alternative directions and all the crossings along the way.
Our maps and the navigation of the mazes are rooted in our
memories and in our alternative states of conscious, phenomenological
experience. Much of our memory is state dependent and is triggered by key
symbolic markers in our environments. We seek a sense of continuity and an
experiential identity of consciousness within our ever changing environmental
It is important to understand the possible relations
between Mindspace and physical space. It is important to understand how our
understanding of Mindscapes, however narrow and limited, becomes superimposed
upon our 'normal' perception and experience of the physical world in which we
live, such that it is always distorting and 'bending' the light of the things
we see and experience through the prisms of its 'glassy essence'. Our
perception of space and time are normally 'hyperbolic' and curved upon the
peripheries of our conscious focus, there is distortion of parallax of our
perspective and we lose sense of proper proportion as if looking up at objects
from the bottom of the sea. Mind filters our experiences and always mediates
our relations with the world in ways we are rarely self conscious of. The
finished version of the 'normal world' that we get through our sense is always
from a 'Mind's Eye' viewpoint and rarely are we able to know the difference.
But we can always be assured that however sensitive, however sensible, or
however scientific, it always must be in some measure be 'relativized' and
disproportionately distorted by our small idea of Mind. Even the understanding
of ourselves and of our own being in the world, must be mediated by our Mind.
Only by embracing and understanding better the movement and
workings of Mind, of the interconnections of mind and matter and the possible
functions of human experience, can we hope to gain a clearer vision of both
Mind and the world.
If the Mind filters the world through our experience of it,
then we must also ask if the world of physical reality does not also in some
important and hidden ways also help to 'pre-structure' or influence our Mind,
or at least our understanding of Mind. We only discover the working of Mind
through the reflexive elaboration of our own mythologies, and our mythologies
always are derived from symbolisms rooted in natural environments and are
always framed within relational contexts which are grounded in our
experiential realties. It is to be wondered whether our narrow versions of
Mind are somehow constrained and 'prejudiced' by the experience of our
paradigms and mythological patterns in the world.
If so, it follows that better and broader understanding of
the Mind can be fond in gazing into grains of sand as well as mediating upon
mountain tops. Learning how to see reality more clearly, more
phenomenologically unconditioned, more naturally, and how to relate to our
environments in ways which decrease the ecological distance between our own
being and the experience of its nature, will not also help us to better
Whereas world view is a totality of a fixed center, Mind is
the decentered totality of the universe of human experience and reality--it
has no center, no boundaries, no ends, and yet its expression can be found
reflected in anything and everything. Its sense of wholeness can be
represented symbolically in bounded and finite entities. It is never complete
and always open to other possibilities. Mind is the human awareness and its
manifestation in human sensibilities and beingness. The possibility of
Mindness gives us a partial hold on reality by relating us to reality. The
history of human consciousness has been one of the developmental unfolding of
the possibilities of Mindness as a reflection of being in reality. World views
have arisen, changed their positions of power, and disappeared in continuous
succession, but only Mind has emerged and blossomed as a continuously
characteristic of human possibility.
Mind exists as a universal possibility or as a possible
universality, but it is always a restricted and limited human possibility. As
structure, it is an a priori possibility, but as human understanding it
remains always and only an a posteriori epi-phenomenon of human experience. It
is not an immanent Geist or Spirit as an organizing force or ultimate Logos of
reality as some eidetic, metaphysical and noumenal super reality. The physical
phenomena of the universe are ordered upon patterns which can be represented
by certain scientific principles or general law, but the human understanding
of these ordering patterns and principles is always preconditioned by the
limitations of human experience. There can be no perfect, proven, absolute
isomorphism between the 'structure' of human reality and our knowledge of that
'structure' and all we are left with in the final analysis are or own sets of
partial and imperfect ideas about the reality of Mind--our own limited sense
of Mind (or Mindness) which serves as the basis for our scientific
understanding and excoriation of real phenomena.
We exist because Mind exists and Mind exists because we
exist--it makes no difference to ask which comes first or which cause the
other. Both exist as manifestations of its possibility. We are the result of
its eventual working out of its possibilities and our Mindness becomes its
expression in reality.
Our happiness, sense of well being, understanding, adaptive
adjustment and mental health and sense of reality all depend upon our Mindness
or 'state of Mind'--'a minding of our business'. Mindness is not necessarily
achieved through embracing world view but through the dispelling of the
illusion and delusion of power. Mindness is achieved in dialectical
transcendence to world view as its antithetical opposite. Mind is attained
through the cultivation of a sense of being, of beingness in the world in the
fullest of human senses.
We cannot ever know or envision Mind directly--it is always
construed indirectly, mediated by the mechanisms of experience. Its paradox is
that if seen directly it is ultimately chaotic in appearance--chaotic because
of its entropic complexity. Or mechanisms of experience superimpose a sense of
order and meaning to this chaos, but at a price of superficiality and
spuriousness. No sooner do we bound chaos to create order than Mind slips
outside of our boundaries to exist in the unknown chaos beyond our field of
The dialectics of Mind are evolutionary--they are
continuously being transformed in response to the adaptive pressures of a
greater environmental context which is also always changing. The evolution of
Mind as a characteristically species wide human phenomena allows us to speak
of the 'psychic unity of humankind' and to posit a 'universal structure'
underlying human language. It has been a 'by product' of natural evolution and
it arose as an 'adaptive mechanism' of human survival. The function of Mind as
a natural system has been in human adaptation to evolving, complex natural
environments and later, social environments. The evolution of Mind as the
evolution of life on earth, as been largely a chance phenomena as an
expression of patterned possibility--there has been nothing preordained or
immanent or inevitable about evolution, not is it necessarily 'progressive' in
the sense of fulfillment of higher purpose. It arises as a 'system
maintaining' function--a consequence of maintaining an ecological, dynamic
equilibrium of relations. This evolution is based upon an 'anti-entropic' and
anti-chaotic principle of increasing order and complexity in the dialectic
with natural entropy and the tendency towards random disorder. Life is
fundamentally 'anti-entropic' and 'anti-chaotic' in a broad evolutionary sense
in that it strives to perpetuate and increase meaning systems, organize
relations, in the face of environmental change and chaos. Mind is in an
evolutionary sense epi-phenomenal--it does not drive evolutionary development
but is merely the resulting patterning by which such evolutionary development
then becomes constrained. It is a second order feedback mechanism of
evolution. Mind must be construed as the organizational patterning of natural
systems, and as the human possibility for comprehending this patterning. This
human capacity for Mindness is what most characterizes and distinguishes the
FREEDOM OF MIND
The confrontation of new environments demands a different
kind of courage, the courage to exercise rigorously the freedom of the Mind.
Like any other kind of freedom it must always be fought for, as like any other
kind of freedom it is being subverted or denied by all those people who feel
threatened by it. And there is reason for their fears, for someone is probably
profiting by them. Freedom of mind demand freedom of voice--to speak our
loudly and to demand to be listened to. The enemies of Mind can easily be
recognized as they are either trying to ignore you or to silence you. The
reign of Silence, like the reign of Terror is the antidote to the social
disease of 'too much freedom'.
Often times it seems that what is written is not as
important as how it is presented. A rich person and a poor person may both be
able to write, and even if the poor person is a better or more interesting
writer, it is the rich person who is still more likely to get published and
read. There are different kinds of voice and different forms of silence, and
varying degrees of freedom.
Similarly, a professor and a pupil may share the same set
of ideas, and even if the professor conveniently 'borrows' them from the
student, it will probably be the professor's voice that will carry the weight
of credibility and be listened to instead of the words of the student.
This is a sad testimony on our sense of progressive
enlightenment, a lesson to be learned about the alienation and spuriousness of
social relations in our modern environments.
Our exchange of ideas is still not very free and open.
Minds do not regularly meet upon an equal footing. Worlds and the information
they contain are still systematically controlled and suppressed. Access to
information has become privileged within a rigid, class bound status
hierarchy. Voices of opposition challenging the status quo of who knows what
with bold new ideas are either strangled into social death, or the bright
words merely fall upon deaf ears or else echo hollowly down long empty
Now we need to remind ourselves and publicly reaffirm our
ultimate freedom of the human mind. Its continued freedom is the best
guarantee we have for our progressive emancipation. The final control over our
minds and our voices always depends upon our own courage and will power to
resist programmatic brainwashing and behavior modification, to relativize
ideological propaganda, to resist subtle and subliminal techniques of
persuasion, to reach through the impersonal screens of political, economic and
social prejudice and violence, to refuse to remain silent or to allow
ourselves to become silenced under authority and power, and to reject the
status quo of class bound consciousness.
This we must do at any price as the quality and outcome of
our collective confrontation with our new environments depends greatly upon
Blanket Copyright, Hugh M. Lewis, © 2005. Use of
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Last Updated: 08/25/06